The Capitals look to continue their strong play at home when they host the Eastern Conference-leading New York Rangers on Saturday.
Ovechkin, the league’s reigning MVP, was held without a goal in Washington’s 3-2 win over Carolina on Thursday - the career-high eighth straight contest in which he failed to score. However, he assisted on all three goals for Washington (6-4-2), setting up Semin’s two scores in the third period, including the go-ahead goal with 10.9 seconds remaining.
“I think everybody knows I’m going to shoot. But I just made one step in the middle, the goalie stops, and the guy with Semin came to me,” Ovechkin said. “So I just made (an) easy pass.”
Semin is thriving in 2008-09, with 10 goals and nine assists already. Seven of the goals have come at home, where the Capitals are 4-0-1 this season, and 10-0-1 in the last 11 home games dating back to the end of 2007-08. They’ve been especially successful at the Verizon Center against the Rangers (11-4-1), winning both games against them there last season and going 11-2-3 since 1999-2000 at home versus New York.
The task could be tougher against the current Rangers (11-4-1), who lead the Eastern Conference. They had lost consecutive games before Thursday, but appeared to get back on track with a 5-2 victory over Tampa Bay.
Five players are tied for the team lead with five goals for the balanced Rangers. Captain Chris Drury joined that group Thursday, when he had two power-play goals and a short-handed score for his second career hat trick.
“It feels pretty good, especially after losing two games back-to-back,” Drury said. “It’s a big win for our club.”
Ryan Callahan added his fifth goal of the season, and third in the past five games.
Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist had another solid night with 36 saves, improving to 9-3-1 with a 2.00 goals-against average. He’s been impressive against the Capitals despite his team’s struggles in the series, going 7-2-1 with a 2.52 GAA.
Washington might again use backup goalie Brent Johnson, who started his second straight game Thursday in place of the inconsistent Jose Theodore. Johnson made 32 saves against the Hurricanes to improve to 2-1-2 with a 2.37 GAA.
However, the Capitals could find good reason to use Theodore, who is 8-2-0 with one tie and a 2.30 GAA in his last 11 starts against the Rangers.
Coach Bruce Boudreau said Friday that he would probably start Johnson, but was wary of fatigue setting in for the goaltender, who would be playing his third game in five nights.